A nurse is responsible--ethically and statutorily--for her continued competence and professional growth. As a Continuing Education (CE) Provider, you will be similarly obligated to promote safe nursing practices and protect the public by developing and presenting quality, research-based educational activities. Nursing and technology have advanced since continuing education courses were broadcast on radio in the 1920s; you will have more options, more guidelines . . . and more opportunity.

The Steps:

Identify the target audience and course objectives: • Is the activity intended for a specialty practice or a general audience? What gaps in knowledge will this activity address? The content should be fresh and relevant to the audience. • Outline what you expect the nurse to learn, and how his behavior will be affected. A CE activity should enhance the nurse's current knowledge, skills and attitude.

Select your presentation method(s). • The activity might be published in a journal, presented at a conference, broadcast on the web, taped for repeat presentations or posted online. • Consider additional resources needed: space, equipment, personnel, supplies and funding.

Decide whether to seek approval for accreditation before conducting the activity. • Most--not all--states require nurses to obtain CE credit from an approved provider for license renewal. If your state does not require CE, you have a geographically limited audience or you will only provide a handful of CE activities, it may make financial sense not to seek approval. • If you travel to present CE at seminars, provide on-line activities or decide to make a career of providing CE, approval status can boost your credibility as well as your marketability. • If you are not a registered nurse, recruit or team up with at least one who has an advanced degree to develop the curriculum. • Plan your activity well in advance if seeking approval; the process may take months.

Contact Accredited CE Approvers (optional). The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) is recognized as the national authority for accreditation and has the information you will need, including criteria for approval and contact information for other CE Approvers. Although requirements vary by state, there are generally three ways to obtain approval for your CE:

• Enter into an agreement with an existing CE Provider to co-sponsor your activity. • Request approval for a single activity through your state nurses association or regional CE Provider. • Become an approved CE Provider through your state board of nursing, state nurses association, a national nurses association or, in some cases, the ANCC itself.

Develop course content. The ANCC defines continuing education as "systematic professional learning experiences designed to augment the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of nurses and therefore enrich the nurses' contributions to quality health care and their pursuit of professional career goals." The course should: • Relate to nursing practice • Apply to current issues • Rely on recent (within five years) research and best practice recommendations • Have measurable outcomes

Establish criteria for successful completion and assessment of the participant's learning, such as: • Attendance sheet • Post-test • Skills demonstration • Self-evaluation

Generate Course Evaluations to be completed by the participants at the end of the learning activity to evaluate effectiveness and improve future courses. • Make the evaluation short and easy to complete; avoid closed-ended questions and use 1 to 5 scales where possible. • Ask to what extent the content supported the objectives and whether the participant will change her practice. • Ask the participant to rate the effectiveness and organization of the teaching method as well as the knowledge of the presenter.